IIT Guwahati researchers transform tea factory waste into pharmaceutical and food innovations

BNE News Desk

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IIT Guwahati Researchers Pioneer Innovative Utilization of Tea Factory Waste for Sustainable Pharmaceutical and Food Products

Guwahati: In a remarkable stride towards promoting sustainable practices and economic growth, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati) have harnessed the potential of tea factory waste to develop groundbreaking technologies. These innovations not only contribute to the waste-to-wealth mission but also align with the "Act East Policy" of the Indian government, "Advantages Assam," and the "Biotechnology" policy of the Assam state government.

Tea, one of the world's most consumed beverages, is experiencing increasing demand globally, leading to a surge in tea waste generation from the industry. This waste poses both environmental and resource utilization challenges, primarily due to its high lignin content and low inorganic components. Recognizing the need for innovative solutions, Prof. Mihir Kumar Purkait and his research team at IIT Guwahati have embarked on a cutting-edge journey to transform tea factory waste into valuable pharmaceutical and food products.

This groundbreaking research, supported by the Abdul Kalam Technology Innovation National Fellowships of the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE), has yielded a range of innovative products with diverse applications:

1. Low-cost Antioxidant-rich Supplements: These supplements tap into the potential properties of green tea to offer an affordable and healthier lifestyle option.

2. Organic Preservatives: Developed from green tea, these preservatives extend the shelf life of vegetable and fruit juices for up to one year, reducing waste and ensuring freshness.

3. Pharmaceutical Super-grade Activated Carbon: With exceptional surface area, this carbon finds applications in pharmaceuticals and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG).

4. Biochar: Produced from waste, it contributes significantly to waste reduction and environmental restoration, including carbon sequestration.

5. Liquefiable Carbon Source for Pharmaceuticals: Promising innovative solutions for the future of medicine.

6. Micro and Nano-crystalline Cellulose: Tailored for intelligent packaging, meeting the evolving demands of modern consumers and industries.

7. Carbon Quantum Dots: Explored for their sensing potential in detecting harmful contaminants in water bodies.

These pioneering developments have led to the filing of multiple patents, including technologies related to catechins, organic preservatives, and pharmaceutical-grade super-activated carbon.

The research findings have been published in prestigious international journals, underscoring their significance in the scientific community. The project was carried out by Somnath Chanda, Prangan Duarah, and Banhisikha Debnath as part of their PhD thesis work in the Centre for The Environment at IIT Guwahati.

Explaining the significance of these innovations, Prof. Mihir Kumar Purkait stated, "The convenience and health benefits of catechin-based capsules open a promising avenue, offering users access to the advantages of catechins without the necessity of multiple cups of green tea."

He further elaborated on the transformation of spent tea leaves into activated carbon, highlighting its versatile applications in food, toiletries, pharmaceuticals, anti-pollution masks, packaging, and more.

The commercial potential of these products is substantial, with increasing demand for catechin-based health supplements and organic preservatives among health-conscious consumers and food processing companies.

Looking ahead, the project aims to advance to the advanced Pilot stage (TRL-7), leading to the Transfer of Technology (ToT) phase with potential industry partners. These value-added products not only enhance the economic viability of tea cultivation but also encourage sustainable practices by reducing waste and promoting resource efficiency. IIT Guwahati's groundbreaking research promises a brighter, more sustainable future for the tea industry and beyond.

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